Reading Specialist and Interventionist

I wrapped up my reading interventionist coursework over the winter.  The practicum was done in May.  July rolled around and the B-I-G Praxis test was staring me in the face.  I found out this morning that I passed the exam.  That, along with my endorsement diploma from Concordia University, makes for a special day here in the Cacak household.  I want to share this moment with you for a couple of reasons.  1) I am proud of my hard work, and 2) I hope it inspires you to continue being patient and spending extra time with students who need the extra support.

It's official!  I am a certified reading interventionist and specialist.
If anyone would have told me 25 years ago that I would someday teach tiny humans numerous reading skills that would set them up for a lifetime of success, I probably would have called them a liar...or off their rocker.  It's funny how life takes twists and turns along that way.  It's even funnier when you look back at your own education and discover that path had been formed long before you realized what was taking place.

I started off as a very eager learner.  My mom bought me this super-groovy school desk at a garage sale when I was four years old, and I would sit there for hours drawing, practicing writing my name, writing "I love you" notes to my parents, etc.  I loved writing and reading.  Mom bought me as many books as she could, and I poured over them each and every day.  She provided paper of all types, pens, pencils, crayons, markers...you name it...I had it.  Of course, it all came from Dad's office. (Shhhh...don't tell).

Practicing writing my name as a four year old!  So sweet!
Somewhere along the way, a strong hate for reading and writing developed inside of me.  I hated reading as a child.  I mean, I *HATED* reading!  I was highly aware that I was a struggling reader, but there was no help for me at the time.  I went from being a very happy, fun-loving child in early primary grades (kindergarten and first grade)...

A basket as a hat is clearly the mark of a happy kid!
...to a defeated, hopeless older student (second grade through middle school).  I distinctly remember those feelings starting as early as second grade.  I remember being caught cheating on a second grade spelling test.  I also remember how the entire episode felt.  I remember thinking it was the only way I would ever pass that test.  I remember feeling completely dumb for not knowing how to spell the words, no matter how much I practiced at home.  I remember my mother being told, "She just doesn't apply herself!"  I remember getting to the point where I simply didn't apply myself anymore.  Why?  Because it did not matter how hard I tried, the situation only got worse.  Looking back, I see realize my struggles held me back as a learner, and that with support, I could have soared as a student.

During this period of time, I had that look on my face in EVERY picture.
I have been working toward my certification as a reading interventionist for over a year, but I have been actually doing the job of an interventionist (in my own classroom) for much longer than that.  I believe most of us teaching primary grades do.  To some degree, it comes with the territory.  However, I am feeling super proud this morning.  I am not great at a lot of things in my life, but I am a fantastic teacher. 


It always feels good to be rewarded for hard work.  I consider love notes, like the one above, the be the ultimate reward!  However, today's reward of a passing test score and diploma is special, too.  It's not every day that official diplomas come in the mail.  It's not every day that I have to take a two hour exam to prove what I know as an educator.  This feeling of joy and pride will be carried into my classroom with me this school year.  I have a new goal to reward and acknowledge student milestones more this school year with special awards that celebrate where they are in their reading and writing development...simply because it encourages us to keep plugging along. 

Do you use awards or certificates in your classroom?  How to you acknowledge growth for your little learners?  I would love to hear how you honor childhood milestones in the classroom in a developmentally appropriate way.

Freshly Cut Composition Notebooks

I am sooooo ready for the new school year to begin.  I have my new calendar parts and pieces printed and laminated, most of my teaching materials have been moved into the new classroom, and my husband chopped up a fresh batch of half size composition notebooks for me over the weekend.  Life is good!


Someone on TPT asked if the half size notebooks fall apart over time near the sewn binding.  This is a question that has surfaced many times in the past few years.  Actually, I can't complain.  The books have held together very well for me and my former team of eight teachers.  We were using whatever brand we could get our hands on, and we would buy as many as we could when the back to school sales would hit Fred Meyer and Office Depot.  So I am not dedicated to a particular brand when it comes to cutting notebooks.  For the upcoming 2018-19 school year, I am using a mix of leftover comp books from last school year and new ones picked up at Office Depot last week.

The key to my success has been making sure to cut these with a band saw...not a table saw.  Chances are, if you know anyone remotely handy with a garage full of tools, they have either a stand alone band saw or a miniature/mobile version.  What is the difference between a table saw and a band saw?   A table saw features a giant circular blade that comes up from a tabletop.  A band saw has a very find blade that looks like a teeny, tiny hand saw blade.  A band saw looks like this...

Image lovingly borrowed from The Home Depot site.  :)
Here is what the notebooks look like fresh off the band saw.  No editing here, folks.  They were literally cut and tossed into a shopping bag so I can haul them into my classroom next week.
Remember, use a band saw to cut the notebooks.
Over time, the cardboard fluff you see along the edges falls off.  If I were nice, I would take some sandpaper to the edges...but I am all about kids breaking stuff in on their own.  :)

Not wanting to dive into the world of chopping perfectly good composition notebooks?  I have a teacher buddy in a neighboring district using my vocabulary journal entries with her students.  She ran out of classroom funds to purchase composition notebooks and used donated paper to create her own vocabulary booklets!  She got two booklets out of several sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper that had been stapled together into a "book", and then she cut those in half.  They looked like this...


I really love the idea of making your own vocabulary journals this way because you can start over fresh with a brand new journal book with each unit!  The little cover pages I made with the intention of being a "divider" between stories becomes the journal cover.  Brilliant!
Journal cover

Inside pages of the homemade journal book
Once the unit is over...the journal book goes home.  How cool is that?  In order for me to fit the journal entry and the cover page onto the homemade journal, I did have to cut them slightly smaller than my typical chop twice and go method.  However, it took all of two seconds to do so.  I also want to add that stapling and cutting booklets would make a fantastic parent volunteer job each month.  Perfect for teachers looking for ways to get families to engage in classroom tasks a bit more. 

Have a certain way you keep track of vocabulary in kindergarten?  Do you use a similar journal entry method or something totally different? I am moving to a new district that does not use ReadyGEN.  However, I look forward to keeping my journal method for our weekly focus story.  I was so impressed with how much my journal entries enhanced discussions about books over the past two school years that I can't justify NOT continuing on with the idea.  Vocabulary work packs a powerful punch in kindergarten!

If you are looking for vocabulary journal entries that will support ReadyGEN Kindergarten, check out my free sample here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/ReadyGEN-Kindergarten-Vocabulary-Interactive-Journal-Prompts-FREE-3256540

Beat the Heat Summer Sale Aug. 1-4!

Hi, friends!  I will be hosting a sale in my TPT store August 1-4.  My entire line of classroom resources will be discounted 20%.  If  you make a purchase on August 1st and 2nd, use the promo code BTSFRESH to get an additional discount!


My store will grow this school year!  Be sure to "follow me" on TPT so you can find out about my newest products for the classroom and save 50% the first 24 hours they are listed.
Store Link: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Heather-Cacak

Teacher Printing Needs: HP InstantInk vs. Epson EcoTank

I finally made the plunge into investing in a new printer for my classroom. Why?  Well, my new school has a strict print limit, and I already know that will not work for me.  Also, I loooooove being able to print whatever I want exactly when I need it.  If we run out of recording sheets for a reading or math station...*BOOM*...instant recording sheets.

While you are reading this post, please keep in mind that I print a TON both in and out of the classroom. From take-home reading books from A-Z Readers to all of my reading and math station activities, I do it all.  I adore printing in color; especially if the items being printed will be meaningful for my students.  For instance, the ABC Sing, Sign, and Read charts, by Nellie Edge, that go back and forth every single day in the daily take home folders.  They would simply NOT be the same in black and white. Plus, I tell students over and over again, "Be sure you  practice your ABC sign language with your family tonight!"  How boring that would be with a plain, colorless page.  I'm sure you are catching what I am throwing your way so I will stop babbling on and on about it.  Check out the comparison below.

See what I mean???  Color is so much better.
For the classroom, I bought an Epson EcoTank ET-4750 for $399.00.  It came with four bottles of ink -- one to fill each color compartment the printer holds.  I have heard so many great things about the EcoTank printers through several Face Book teacher groups, and I wanted to see how the two printers compare. So here we go....

Click the image to view this product on Amazon.
I have had an HP Envy 5549 at home for about a year and half.  It is a part of the InstantInk program which means the printer tracks your ink levels and ink magically shows up in your mailbox when needed.  You choose how many pages you estimate to print for the month and pay a set price for this service.

I have had my ups and downs with the HP printer.  Much of the downs had to do with horrible internet connection and little to do with HP or the actual printer itself.  One of my tasks for summer break 2018 was to find a different internet provide.  Done!  We have lightening fast speed now (thank goodness).  Because of the spotty connection I had before I switched providers, the printer had a hard time staying connected. This is true of any wireless printer in building that has spotty internet connection. 

I paid $120.00 for the HP printer, and it came with 5 months of FREE ink.  I will be honest, the five months of free ink was the reason I purchased that particular model.  The ink voucher was totally worth it.  Once the free ink period was over, I started being charged $14.99 per month for 500 printed pages.  I was absolutely fine with paying for this service because I do print a ton.  I also know how much I have spent in the past on ink, and $15 per month was a drop in the bucket compared to what my color laser printer toner cartridges cost.  If I do not print that many pages, they roll over into the next month.  Most of the time, I use up my page limit and have to wait unit the account clears for the month before printing again.  There is no plan to cover more than 500 pages per month.  If you go over your limit, you a much heftier fee for the additional pages printed.  {FYI: I did notice that the HP Envy 5549 is now being sold for $59.00 on Amazon, but there is no free ink voucher included as far as I can tell.}

When I sat down to start my annual summer print-a-thon, I quickly ran out of ink in my HP Envy.  Rrrrr.  I had just placed a new color ink cartridge in it, and it was out again.  Because I have owned this unit for over a year, I know it can take well over a week for ink to be shipped to my house.  I didn't have the luxury of waiting every time the printer ran out of ink during my print-crazy summer, so I called them up to see what I could do about having extra ink sent to me before the printer runs out. They happily shipped me several more color and black cartridges.  Over the next week, I continued to blow through the 500 pages I pay for each month...and MORE ink cartridges.  I have estimated that I can print about 150 color pages, which also consumes some of my black ink, before the cartridge requires changing.  This is with my printer set on "ink saver" mode.  I have already changed both the tri color and the black cartridge during this month's 500 page count cycle (see image below).  Had I not planned ahead and asked HP to send extra ink, I would be sitting here waiting instead of printing and prepping for the school year.

Screen shot of my HP account page, as of today.
However, the Epson EcoTank kept chugging along.  When I finally stopped to check how many pages I have printed on the Epson within the same time frame, the number shocked me.  It says I have printed 2,540 pages total -- 2107 black and white and 433 color.  That's a TON of printing.  As of right now, this is what my ink levels look like for the Epson:

Epson EcoTank 4750 lets you see how much ink remains in the printer.
With this printer, you can literally see the ink levels, as well as view an estimate on the digital screen.  I have only used half the black ink and a quarter of the color ink!  That is amazing to me.  I love that I have not had to stop what I am doing with a project and wait for my page count to renew.  It prints faster than the HP, too.  This will make it a really great printer for my classroom. (Our school has strict print limits.)  This model takes the ink bottles marked "502" for black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.  A bottle of black costs $19.15 on Amazon (with Prime shipping).  The bottles of color ink are $40.25 for all three (with Prime shipping).  You can also purchase the color ink bottles separately if you run out of one color faster than the other.  They run about $13.50 per bottle.

This is not at all a slam against the InstantInk program. I love that they bent over backward to ensure I received  extra color cartridges for my summer printfest!  If you are printing very few copies per month at home or at school, the HP Instant Ink will probably do a solid job for you.  I simply can't justify continuing to spend a monthly fee for service that limits me and is not as responsive as I need it to be.

Has this been more cost effective for me?  Aside from the investment of the machine itself, the ink for the Epson has lasted way longer than ink for the HP.  Even if I have to buy a bottle of blank ink each month for all of my classroom printing needs, it's less than $20.00 without a print limit.  Plus, the machine itself prints a little faster than my HP.  I believe that the Epson EcoTank 4750 will save me money in the long run.  It will also save my sanity.  Keeping track of how much I print is not my thing.  I will be retiring my HP Envy after this billing cycle is complete.

What are your printing needs?  Do you print a ton?  A little?  Not at all?  Never in color?  Always in black and white?  Most kindergarten teachers I know print a lot.  I would love to hear how you are managing the rising cost of ink for classroom use.

A New School Year: Getting Organized & Ready

I took a B-I-G leap of faith this spring.  I wanted to work closer to home, and I made the decision to change school districts.  With that being said...I moved all of my classroom goodies out of the classroom.  Now my entire classroom is *crammed* into my house.  I was able to move the big pieces of furniture into my new classroom already, but the custodial staff asked that I not set up until they prep the room for the new year.  Fair enough!  Here is my current view in my home office. {YIKES!}  And this is just what can be seen without opening closet doors.  {Holy smokes!}

  


Believe it or not, I have actually combed through and discarded a ton of stuff.  I have recycled, purged, and given away.  But wait...there's more.  Did I mention my classroom stuff is also taking up an entire side of the garage? 
Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh!  This makes me nervous to look at and embarrassed to share with you!
You can imagine that the family is getting pretty sick of my stuff.  Cars that normally park in the garage have been in the driveway all summer.  We have to move a tower of junk good stuff just to get the lawn mower out of the garage.  It's a whole thing.  I am ready for the school year to begin simply so I can place my stuff where it belongs.  Which is here...in my new classroom.

This building has TONS of '70s charm...and leftovers from the previous teacher!

This mural wall will soon be covered with six giant hearts full of heart words...just like in my previous classroom.
Since I can't get into my new room to set up yet, I decided to start prepping as much as possible at home. It has been a fabulous way to beat the heat.  I keep the A/C blasting, which keeps me working hard. Yes, even with the towers of mess around me, I have been working in my office.  All of those nitty-gritty tasks that suck the life right out of ya once the school year begins are getting marked off my to-do list!  I wanted to use a different alphabet chart for my writer's workshop file jackets this year.  Since I use Nellie Edge's ABC Sing, Sign, and Read Phonics to introduce letters and for my wall alphabet, I thought it would be nice to have the same chart for students to use during writing time.  I modified the chart in the image below so that it would fit the back of our writer's workshop file jackets, but you can download her original chart for FREE on her site: https://nellieedge.com/abc-phonics/abc-phonics-program/

I have added a list for important words this year!  Perfect for words that kids ask how to spell over and over again.
I purchased Tara West's nonfiction hands-on centers.  No, I do not *need* more centers for my reading station rotations.  However, I love the fact that this packet was FULL of nonfiction word work activities.  This center-style activity will be used during my small group reading instruction.  I can't wait to use them!  This will also be a great bundle of games for classroom volunteers to play with small groups of students. 

The front...
I made sure to number each set of cards and mats to ensure easier clean up.  {Numbering or labeling pieces of a set is actually a great tip for puzzle pieces, too.}  That packet of centers has several other hands-on word work games that I have already printed and laminated this week.  Here is a link to that bundle of centers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Nonfiction-Centers-Bundle-3803225

...and the numbers around back.
Oh, and my two tall file cabinets have been part of a major overhaul this summer.  No more paper master copies of anything.  I mean it.  I ditched them in the recycle bin.  I moved to digital everything this year, and I am not missing the files and files of papers!  I have utilized the file cabinets to house my A-Z Readers leveled books (for take-home book bags).  I blogged about that last month.  (You can read that post here.

As of today. the file cabinets also have an entire school year's worth of interactive sight word books from Maria Gavin.   I own both bundles of books, and I use them in one of my reading stations.  Students choose from one of four books to create.  I swap the books every couple of weeks.  It's a student favorite!

You can find bundle 1 here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Bundle-of-Books-Interactive-Sight-Word-Reader-BUNDLED-Set-479568  

You can find bundle 2 here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Bundle-of-Books-Part-2-Interactive-Sight-Word-Reader-BUNDLED-Set-1059219

The numbered tabs represent the week of the school year.  I roll out three words per week and store the books in order of my roll out to help me stay organized.
The top draw of one of the cabinets is ready to stuff full of recording sheets, books, and whatever else will be needed each day from September alllllll the way through December.  If nothing else, it is a great place to store those upcoming lessons.  I did this last year, and it made my life so much easier those first few months of school.  Mainly, I love that there is a place for everything.  No more wandering through the room questioning where I placed that freshly copied set of _____ (you fill in the blank).  Once a week is over, I pull the empty file folders and place them in the very back of the drawer.  My goal for the upcoming year is to have a set of files for January through June prepped before the end of winter break.

Don't you just LOVE Post-It Flags????  I sure do.  I used them as date file tabs.
Are you relaxing this summer and not thinking at all of school?  Are you busy prepping for the year?  I have done a little of both.  As the year creeps closer, I find myself prepping more and more. I know myself well.  Doing all of this now will save my sanity come mid-September!  I hope your summer has been great!  I would love to hear what you do to get yourself ready for a new year.

Editable CCSS Kindergarten I Can Statement Cards

*** New Product 50% Off Sale 7/25/18 – 7/29/18 ***

I have *needed* these cards for the past two school years.  I milked my pre-k learning standard cards as much as possible, and they did fit the bill most of the time.  However, kindergarten state standards are very detailed.  I want this year's focus wall to represent that level of detail.  With that being said, here are the new CCSS Kindergarten I Can Statement cards!



My batch is fresh off the color printer...waiting to be laminated.  This was a labor of love, y'all!  There are 88 pre-written "I Can" cards, or you can opt to create your own with the editable PowerPoint I included in the download.

These 88 cards were created to help families (and school officials) decode and make connections with the reading, writing, language, and math standards used in many kindergarten classrooms.  The “I Can” statements let everyone know what it might look like when standards are met by kindergarten students.

The color-coded background helps keep the standards categorized on bulletin boards and pocket charts.  As the year progresses, I swap cards and replace them with our current overarching target(s). When I begin teaching a new target / standard, I make sure to introduce students to the card.  We refer back to the card(s) during our mini-lesson for the day.  This helps everyone in the room have a clear idea as to what our goals are per lesson.



Standards & Areas of Focus Include:
Reading: Literature = Red
Reading: Informational Text = Aqua
Reading: Foundational Skills = Orange
Writing = Pink
Speaking & Listening = Yellow
Language = Blue
Operations & Algebraic Thinking = Gold
Counting & Cardinality = Purple
Operations in Base Ten = Lime
Measurement & Data = Brown
Geometry = Emerald

Packet Includes:
- 88 pre-made "I Can" cards with CCSS standards listed
- 11 editable pages with select images (4 cards per page)
- 11 editable pages without images (4 cards per page)
You can download a product preview to see if this is a good fit for you and your students.  Just go to my TPT store and click the preview button.  Happy teaching!

Link:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Editable-Bulletin-Board-I-Can-Target-Statement-Cards-CCSS-Kindergarten-3941434

Christmas in July Sale 20% Off!


Ready for summer break?  I am.  I have not stopped since the last day of school on June 22nd.  I am ready to s-l-o-w it down a bit, but that is not a reality for me this summer.  I am moving to a new school district, which means switching a lot of small stuff around.  Not to mention, I had to move my PACKED classroom from one school to another.  The new district was gracious enough to let me move all of the big furniture into my new classroom, but allllllllllll of the small stuff is in either my office or garage.  FYI: I have a ton of small stuff.  Welcome to being a pre-k or kindergarten teacher, right?  Gah!

Anyway, to celebrate moving to a new school, I am throwing a Christmas in July sale!  Everything in my store, including bundles and my new 120 sight word booklet growing bundle (30 weeks of shared reading), will be marked 20% off from July 11 - 14.

Life changes deserve a solid celebration.  Visit my store to see all I have to offer your students (and you).